Prayer and Nonduality
by Jay Michaelson
Tikkun November/December 2009
Jay Michaelson is the author of Everything is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism, from which this article was adapted. Michaelson advocates nonduality---God and us, everything indeed, are one. But prayer (we pray to God) clearly assumes duality (the twoness of God and us). This article addresses this problem of conflict between nonduality and prayer. The following quotes highlight the main points:
God does not exist---but is Existence itself.
"All is one."
Logically, if God is infinite, then everything is God.
Nonduality...But if there is no self, what is there?
A Buddhist would say everything is an empty play of conditions: ...genetics, ...learned behaviours, and so on. A nondual Jew or Christian uses the word "God" to refer to those conditions.
Not just the language of prayer but its fundamental assumptions are rigorously personalistic and dualistic; it implies, and sometimes actually states, that "I" am here and you, God, are there, and I am asking you to do things in the world.
...ready nondualistic answers to the traditional theological problem of prayer:
(1) In the contemplative mode: prayer fills the mind with salutary reflections on beneficence and grace, circumscribing the selfish inclination;
(2) ecstatic practice: prayer as uniting with God magically by means of words, song, movement...
But all this seems to miss the point of why we pray in the first place. Transforming prayer into meditation or magic or self-reflection turns it into something other than prayer, which has to do with the yearnings of the heart. ...prayer is, at its core, devotionalistic in nature. ...a time for the heart to open. ...Devotion implies a devoted-to. It implies duality.
...traditional prayer is intellectually incoherent. If everything happens as it must, rather than as it should, then what is the point of wishing really hard for it to be otherwise?
Ironically, when nondual contemplation actually succeeds...dualistic prayer language suddenly flows much freer...illusion of separation drops away. So too do inhibition and the pretension of knowledge. A great "I don't know" replaces the arrogant claims to metaphysical certainty. It is the negative theology of the Cloud of Unknowing, the limits of reason according to Kant, the limits of language according to Wittgenstein, the mystery of Being according to Hegel and Heidegger. The "I don't know" is the absurdity of Zen, the transrational of Ken Wilber...And so prayer flows from surrender---chiefly the surrender of "I." ...It is a Divine role play, ...This is nondual prayer...
"Prayer and Nonduality" 一文載於前進派 (progressive) 猶太教期刊 Tikkun。作者 Jay Michaelson 著有《一切皆是神：非二元猶太教的激進路徑》。他倡議非二元猶太教，即視神與人為一、一切為一。在非二元論之下，祈禱構成很大的問題，因為人向神祈禱明顯假設我、神二分之二元論。這篇文章就是要解決這個問題。
Alex from UUHK